As the city moves ahead with plans to allow short-term anchoring in the Gorge Waterway, the question remains of what will happen to the handful of people living on boats in the area.
A number of derelict boats and floating vessels have been permanently anchored off the Selkirk Treastle near Banfield Park for a number of years, sparking complaints from area residents about leaking sewage, oil, fuel, noise and garbage.
According to the city, there are currently four anchored wharves, 22 vessels and 12 small vessels anchored in the waterway, in addition to two sunken and one partially submerged vessel. Of those, it’s estimated between five to eight are used for living purposes.
Once the new rules come into effect, Coun. Jeremy Loveday noted the city would be clearing out people who have found a creative housing solution, so they should be helped to come up with a new place to live.
Coun. Ben Isitt isn’t convinced that responsible liveaboard use is completely incompatible with that part of the inner harbour.
“The city doesn’t have any options for people to live on liveaboard vessels,” said Isitt, noting Victoria is a maritime community, but fees in private marinas are becoming increasingly expensive.
“I’m glad to see that we’re not being completely unreasonable in terms of telling some mariner they can’t have a safe harbour in the city for a very short window of time. It makes the bylaw better, but I still think we could be more creative around this.”
In October 2014, city council passed a bylaw that prohibits overnight anchoring, but the portion of water that was experiencing all the problems is owned by the province.
So the city applied for a license of occupation from the province and received that in the fall of 2015.
The city had aimed to prohibit all anchoring in the area, however, a recent B.C. Court of Appeal judgement confirmed municipal bylaws may regulate use of land covered by water, but must allow for some short-term anchoring to avoid intruding on federal jurisdiction over navigation.
In order to successfully enforce the gorge, the city is now initiating a zoning process that would allow anchoring for up to 48 consecutive hours, but not exceeding 72 hours in a 30-day period. The next step is to gather public consultation for feedback on the proposed changes. A community meeting is being planned for March.
Once the area has been rezoned, the city will introduce the regulations in a phased-in approach that includes education and outreach (potentially in May), then posting notices on vessels and floating wharves in June and July. Injunctions to remove the remaining vessels could take place in August and September.
In the meantime, the city is looking at what it can do to provide environmental protection for the area and what its legal limitations are for removing hazardous, uninhabited vessels as soon as possible.
Mike Taylor has three boats in the waterway that he’s lived on for the last seven years and rents them to people in need of a home. Taylor said his boats are in good shape and he helps keep the gorge clean.
He doesn’t see any problems with living on the water and doesn’t want to move elsewhere.
“They made up their minds, they don’t listen to anybody…If I’m going to have to move, then I have to abide by the law, but I could fight this,” he said. “These are rich, evil people as far as I’m concerned. They have no concern for anybody but themselves.”